From the Acropolis to the chic streets of Kolonaki and the alleyways of Plaka, Athens is on the bucket list of every self-respecting traveller. Courtesy of a new generation of chefs, the city boasts a diverse array of restaurants that celebrate the excellence of the country's produce and perpetuate the ancestral art of Greek hospitality. Furthermore, Athens has no shortage of stylish and elegant hotels. Make the most of the city with this two-day itinerary that takes in the best of the restaurants and hotels selected by the MICHELIN Guide.
Day 1: Around the Acropolis
In Athens, the only way to kick off the day is with a good cup of coffee. Traditionally, it is drunk "Greek style" – made the old-fashioned way in a briki, a small copper coffee pot. Mokka, a coffee roaster on Athinas, in the vicinity of the covered market, still prepares it in this way, for you to drink either black or with sugar. Next to the coffee bar, and well worth a visit, is the roastery, where coffees from all over the world are roasted.
Just a few minutes' walk from Mokka is Athens Central Market, one of the liveliest markets in Europe. Organised by foodstuff, its various sections are a cook's dream. The fish market is particularly impressive with its huge stalls crammed with octopus, sea bass, sea bream and red mullet. The unique spectacle of the meat market next to it is remarkable, too. Then there's the fruit and vegetable market, its stalls loaded with wonderful olives, sun-dried tomatoes, courgette flowers and aubergines.
Not far away, Evripidou is lined with food shops, including Fotsi, where you'll find all the herbs of the maquis and the mountains, from rosemary and thyme to immortelle. Just next door, Miran has a wide selection of charcuterie and cured meats from all over the country. Heading back towards the covered market, you come to Strounga Tou Moria, a cheese shop that draws crowds eager to get their hands on its range of delicious feta and cheeses from the different regions of Greece.
For lunch, head to the Syntagma neighbourhood and the terrace of Bib Gourmand restaurant Nolan. This trendy restaurant with a refined interior is run by Sotiris Kontizas, a half Greek-half Japanese chef perhaps best known for presenting TV's MasterChef Greece. His original, instinctive cuisine is beautifully light, so sharing an assortment of these plates with discreet Asian influences is always an appealing option. A fine white wine from Santorini is the ideal accompaniment for the many fish and seafood dishes on the menu – simply sit back and savour it all in the relaxed and convivial atmosphere. Don't forget to pop into Sweet Nolan, their pastry shop just next door, to stock up on cakes and pastries to try at home.
After lunch, you might like to head to Ergon House Athens, a hotel that has brought to life a surprising concept: the ground floor is dedicated to a huge "marketplace" bursting with delicious Greek produce. You'll find exceptional olive oil, homemade ouzo, kritharaki (local orzo-like pasta) and an incredible variety of sweet treats. Upstairs, Ergon House has around 40 inviting and comfortable guestrooms, in which wood is the predominant material. Covering the top level of the complex, there is an elegant rooftop bar, where you can have coffee or a drink from 5pm.
Soak up the atmosphere as you head up towards the Acropolis, strolling through the narrow streets of the Plaka neighbourhood and its upper part, Aniafotika, en route to the Ancient Agora – the hub of Athenian life in Ancient times. On the way back down to Monastiraki and Miaouli, treat yourself to an aperitif at A for Athens, a rooftop bar that boasts magnificent views of the Acropolis. It's an unforgettable experience at sunset.
Dinner and evening:
For dinner, there are two great restaurant options within easy reach. On the edge of Plaka, Okio serves tempting Mediterranean cuisine with a contemporary component. Chef Panagiotis Giakalis likes to use produce from the market, where he is to be seen almost every morning. The well-devised dishes sometimes feature surprising combinations – for example, squid with mango and courgette tempura; Angus beef with aubergine and miso – to be savoured on the terrace, beneath the arcades, with a glass of Greek wine or a cocktail.
The second option is to head to the garden of CTC, a restaurant set in a beautiful old building in the Keramikos area. Alexandros Tsiotinis's sophisticated cuisine follows the seasons and changes with the catch of the day and the meat and vegetables of the moment – everything is sourced from small-scale producers. If it's on the menu, try the sweetcorn velouté flavoured with lobster, truffle and a bergamot espuma, a classic dish of the house.
After dinner, it's off to The Zillers, a charming hotel housed in an elegant neo-Classical building with a handful of sleek designer guestrooms. For a nightcap, take the magnificent staircase up to the roof garden, which boasts unforgettable views of the Acropolis and Athens Cathedral.
Day 2 : Kolonaki and Pangrati
Start the day with a coffee at Da Capo, a café by Kolonaki Square in the stylish Kolonaki neighbourhood – and why not make it a freddo cappuccino, the variation on the frappé coffee that has become a staple of mornings in Athens. A hundred metres away, on Panagiotou Anagnostopoulou, Kora is a bakery that sells delicious pastries (croissants, pains au chocolat, cinnamon rolls etc), kneaded from pastry that has been fermented for at least 20 hours. Having worked in the kitchens of Noma, the bakery's founders swear by French butter, their fat of choice in preparing their tempting baked goods.
After this breakfast feast, you could take a stroll through the National Garden, a vast 16-hectare park planted with orange trees, palm trees and fragrant jasmine. It's always cool here, even at the height of summer. There's also a small café where you can take a break and enjoy a freshly squeezed juice.
Back in the most pleasant streets of Kolonaki, take a seat on the terrace of Bib Gourmand restaurant Oikeio, where an authentic and tasty experience of traditional Greek cuisine awaits you – all the country's great classics are on the menu, alongside a few more original dishes. The lentil salads are delicately seasoned with herbs, the moussaka melts in the mouth, and the top-quality meats are gently simmered for long hours or grilled over hot coals.
After walking alongside the Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted the inaugural Games of the modern Olympics in 1896, and visiting the Goulandris Foundation, home to a superb collection of modern and contemporary art, you come to the trendy Pangrati neighbourhood, with its abundance of terrific restaurants. The terraces here are open all year round, as soon as the sun comes out. The Chelsea Hotel is one of the most popular with locals, who like to sit here for hours sipping their cold coffee.
When it comes to dinner on your second night, there is another dilemma. Your first option is to choose one of the terraces at Spondi, a restaurant with a long-standing reputation for its refined cuisine. At the helm is French chef Arnaud Bignon, mentor to many chefs in Athens. He serves up an unforgettable meat and fish menu, featuring culinary tours de force such as delicate toothfish in a dashi and shiso broth. As for the wines, there is a wide selection of Greek and French labels.
Another alternative is the garden of Soil, an intimate restaurant housed in a beautiful early-20C building. The cuisine here is local, sustainable and zero waste. Chef Tasos Mantis – both a cook and gardener – concocts a single set menu (with vegetarian or vegan options) that is tailored on a daily basis to produce picked from his kitchen garden and fish and meat delivered by his supplier partners.
To continue the evening, what could be better than a drink on the rooftop of the Hotel Grande Bretagne, a luxury hotel with a flamboyant decor and a distinctly British look? Opened in 1874, this legendary establishment has been frequented by personalities such as Winston Churchill and Aristotle Onassis. Its opulent guestrooms, done out with antique furniture and draped in plush fabrics and heavy curtains, offer total comfort. From the hotel's rooftop terrace, the view takes in a whole swathe of the Greek capital, from the Panathenaic Stadium to the Acropolis.
To round off your stay in Greece in style, take advantage of the sublime, elegant rooms, all with a touch of British discretion. Some have balconies overlooking the Acropolis. Of course, there's a swimming pool and spa, and the quality of service is superb.
Read more: Our complete selection of hotels in Athens
Mokka : Athinas 44, Athina 105 51, Greece
Athens Central Market : Varvakios Agora, Athina 105 51, Greece
Fotsi : Evripidou 39, Athina 105 54, Greece
Miran : Evripidou 45, Athina 105 54, Greece
Strounga Tou Moria : Evripidou 21, Athina 105 54, Greece
A for Athens : Miaouli 2, Athina 105 54, Greece
Da Capo : Tsakalof 1, Athina 106 73, Greece
Kora: Panagiotou Anagnostopoulou 44, Athina 106 73, Greece
Benaki Museum: Koumpari 1, Athina 106 74, Greece
Goulandris Foundation: Eratosthenous 13, Athina 116 35, Greece
The Chelsea Hotel : Proklou & Archimidous, Athina 116 35, Greece
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